Powerful winter storm

batters Western states

More rain, snow and wind hit the West on Wednesday, flooding roads, toppling trees and cutting power while raising threats of debris flows from wildfire scars.

Mandatory evacuations were in effect near a burned area of the Santa Ana Mountains southeast of Los Angeles, where officials said the risk of debris flows was high.

The tempest, which hit California and southern Oregon and barreled toward Nevada, was feeding on a deep plume of moisture stretching across the Pacific Ocean to near Hawaii, the National Weather Service said.

Storm warnings were posted in the snow-laden Sierra Nevada, where the forecast says up to seven feet of new snow could be dumped at elevations above 9,000 feet. A backcountry avalanche warning was issued throughout the Sierra.

— Associated Press


Fake weapons found hidden in state prison

State authorities confiscated three fake handguns, drawings of handguns, and a fake explosive device at a maximum-security prison in what they called “a very serious and unique situation.”

The first item found Tuesday night at Southern Ohio Correctional Facility in Lucasville was a phony explosive device built of grout shavings, copper wire from ear buds, batteries and a small radio, said JoEllen Smith, spokeswoman
for the Department of Rehabilitation and Correction.

The devices that resembled handguns were made of bars of soap, pieces of eyeglasses, battery casings and carbon paper, she said.

Events leading to the search began when an inmate called the Associated Press, warning of a potential hostage-taking plot. The AP contacted the State Highway Patrol, which investigated along with prison authorities.

The inmates involved were placed in restrictive housing, and the facility was back to normal Wednesday, Smith said.

Prisoners with fake weapons can pose the same kind of threat as robbers who claim to have guns in their pockets, whether real or not, said Richard Lichten, a jail and police practices expert.

— Associated Press

New York

Detective killed in police shootout

A New York City police detective died in a hail of police gunfire as officers faced off with a robbery suspect who had a fake gun and a long rap sheet, authorities said Wednesday.

Detective Brian Simonsen was struck once in the chest Tuesday night. He and six other officers fired 42 times as Christopher Ransom charged them and simulated firing his imitation handgun, police said.

Another officer, Sgt. Matthew Gorman, was shot in the leg. The shooting started as he and two officers retreated from a store when Ransom, 27, came at them, Chief of Department Terence Monahan said. Gorman’s condition was stable.

Ransom was wounded, and his condition was stable. He has been charged with murder, aggravated manslaughter, robbery, assault and menacing.

— Associated Press

Caged children placed in Texas foster care: Four malnourished siblings, all age 5 or younger, have been placed in foster care after authorities found them in a North Texas barn, two locked in a dog cage and the others smeared with excrement, authorities said Wednesday. The three boys and a girl were released from a hospital Tuesday evening, an official from the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services said.

— From news services